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THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM

Annabelle LakeThe Grand Sunset Room"Charles, are you sure you're alright?" Annabelle asked as she lifted her head off of his shoulder.

"I-I'm not sure."  He swallowed and stretched his neck.  Carefully he looked down at his hand and squinted in an attempt to focus his eyes.  "I guess I had...I had...more to drink...than I thought."  His words came out in a mutter and he found his thoughts beginning to blur.

"I'm sure that's all it is."  She smiled.  The drug had taken affect much more quickly than she'd anticipated.  She cautiously slid closer to him.  With a gentle touch to his cheek, she turned his head to face her.  "Don't let what Nelson said about your family upset you.  The Callisons are the greatest family in town.  And you, Charles, are the greatest man."

Charles Callison"I...I," he stammered.  "I'm not so sure about that."

Annabelle was suddenly startled when she caught sight of a figure standing barely noticeable in the doorway.  Another quick glance showed her that their observer was Charles' daughter Maggie.  Annabelle smiled again and realized that she could most definitely use this to her advantage.  She slowly leaned in to him so that her lips brushed lightly against his cheek.  "Charles..." she murmured.

He turned to face her more fully and her lips brushed against his.  He let out a deep sigh that was suddenly smothered by the intense kiss that followed.  Charles did not pull away.


Reginald CallisonJillian Stokes"Jillian," Reginald spoke up as he grabbed her arm.  "I love you.  That's the one thing in life I'm most sure of.  Please don't tell me it's over.  Please don't tell me you don't love me any more."

She lowered her head and sighed deeply.  "H-how can I say that?  How can I tell you I don't love you when that's the furthest thing from the truth?"  Jillian fell into his arms and rested her head on his strong chest.  "Reginald, I love you more than I've ever loved anyone in my entire life.  I could never stop loving you.  No matter what's happened or what might happen, I'll love you until the day I die."

"You make me so happy."  He kissed the top of her head and stroked her hair.  "Jillian, please tell me you still want to marry me.  Please tell me you still want to be my wife."

"Oh, Reginald, yes!  Yes, I still want to marry you!"

"Do you really mean it?"

"Reginald, I love you," Jillian said as she held him tightly.  "I-I know things have been difficult for us because of Dane and Stephanie, but I know the love we have for one another can get us through anything.  I am still determined to be your wife."

Nelson Stokes"I wouldn't hold my breath on that, Jillian dear," Nelson spoke up as he approached them.

"W-what do you mean, Father?"

"All this happy revelry will be for nothing."  Nelson stood in front of them with his arms folded securely across his chest.  "I have no intention of letting this wedding take place!"


Annabelle Lake"Oh, Charles," Annabelle moaned softly before pulling away from him.  She grinned with satisfaction that he was not resisting her advances.  She cautiously glanced out of the corner of her eyes to make sure Maggie was still standing in the shadows.

"I-I'm not f-feeling well."  Charles wobbled a little and grabbed on to Annabelle to steady himself.  "I really m-must have had...must have had m-more to drink...than I thought."

"Darling, maybe you need to lie down?"

"I-I think y-you might be...right."

"Well, I have an idea.  Let me get you a room here in the hotel and you can lie down and rest."  She took hold of his arm to give him balance as she slowly led him to the doors of the lounge.  She glanced ahead and noticed that Maggie had moved from her previous position in the doorway.

Charles Callison"Y-yes...I-I do n-need to lie...down."  He stumbled as he walked, but Annabelle held on to him firmly.

Once they were in the hallway outside of the lounge, Annabelle cautiously looked around to see Maggie.  She was pleased to find the teenager still watching their every move from the shadows.  That child should really work on being sneaky, Annabelle thought to herself with a laugh.  She's really not that good.  She needs much more practice.

"Just follow me," she spoke audibly enough for Maggie to hear.  "I'll take care of everything."

"J-just...just make s-sure...just make sure F-Francis k-knows where I-I am."  His speech grew even more slurred.  "I-I...I don't w-want her...to worry."

"Oh, everything will be fine."  Annabelle smiled widely.  "I'll make sure your wife knows exactly where you are."  As she led Charles away, she made sure that his daughter followed close behind.


The Grand Sunset RoomGrace DavisGrace looked up into Dane's eyes and sighed as she thought about how handsome he was.  As he twirled her around the dance floor, she silently waited for him to suddenly realize that she was the perfect girl for him.  The dream that she'd had had come true, so far, the rest of it had to happen, too.

"Grace," Dane finally muttered.

"Y-yes, Dane?"

"You are a very attractive young woman."  His lips gently grazed her ear and she could feel his breath on her neck.

"Oh, Dane, you have no idea how much I care for you."  She held on to him tighter and allowed the strength of his arms to encircle her.

Dane grinned as he thought about the young woman in his arms.  She sure does have a thing for me, he thought to himself.  She's so pretty and innocent.  She's hanging on my every word.  Grace Davis would definitely make a nice distraction for me.

"D-Dane," she spoke up.  "I-I think I've had a crush on your since the moment I met you.  I'd always hoped you would see me as more than Douglas' little sister."

Dane Manchester"Oh, don't you worry.  I see you as much more than that."  He grinned slyly.  "But I had no idea you felt like you do.  I-I'm very flattered and a little surprised."

"C-can I kiss you again?"  She blushed slightly and lifted her head so that their eyes met again.

"I don't see why not."  He was enjoying her attention and found this little flirtatious game they were playing quite satisfying.  He leaned in to her and their lips met again .

Sara Summers"Dane!" came a voice that broke into their moment.  "What in the world is going on here?"

Dane and Grace turned simultaneously to see Sara standing in front of them.  Dane cringed under her angry gaze.  He'd been caught red-handed.  How would he ever be able to talk his way out of this?


Jillian Stokes"I honestly don't think you can tell me who I can and cannot marry!" Jillian stated firmly as she glared at her father.  "I love Reginald and there's not a thing you can do about that.  I intend on marrying him!"

"Jillian Marie Stokes, I forbid you to have anything to do with this cretin!"  Nelson's voice boomed over the din of the crowd.  "You will not marry this man!  I forbid it!"

"You're forbidding me?"  Jillian placed her hand on her chest in shock.  "I'll have you know I'm a grown woman and can make such decisions for myself!  I am not a little girl that you can simply order around!"

"Are you threatening to defy me?"

"Jillian..." Reginald muttered nervously.  He didn't like the idea of being the cause of problems between her and her family.

She threw up a hand to silence Reginald.  "This is between me and my father," she said as she moved closer to Nelson.  "I am threatening to follow my heart, Father.  My heart is leading me to Reginald.  There is nothing you can do about that!"

Nelson Stokes"I'm warning you, young lady, if you persist in this foolish idea, I will cut you off!"  He glared at his daughter.  "I cannot allow a man like Reginald Callison to embarrass me or the Stokes name!"

"Now, wait a second, Mr. Stokes," Reginald broke into the conversation.  "I take great offense at your implications concerning my family."

"I don't care what offense you take!" Nelson fired back.

Reginald Callison"Reginald!" Jillian chastised before again turning to face down her father.  She inhaled deeply and tried to swallow back the tears of anger that tried to well up in her eyes.  "If that's the way you want it, so be it!  I may no longer be considered a Stokes, but I will most definitely be a Callison.  In my opinion I've chosen the better of the two!"

Reginald stood stunned with Jillian's proclamation while Nelson seethed with anger over his daughter's betrayal.  Silently, Reginald feared what Jillian's father had in store for her next.


Dane Manchester"Um, oh, hi, Sara," Dane stammered as he quickly moved away from Grace.  "Where have you been?  I was looking for you."

"I bet you were."  Sara glared at him and then turned to look at a guilty Grace.  "I think you need to stay away from my boyfriend," she warned.  "I certainly hope you don't think you actually mean anything to him!  I can guarantee that you mean nothing!  You see, Dane here has this little habit of leading naive girls on.  He thrives on the attention.  Most girls like Jillian are smart enough to see through him or, like me, smart enough to keep him in line."

"Now wait a second!"  Dane didn't like the notion that Sara "kept him in line" as she'd put it.  "No one controls me!  Not you, not anyone!"

"Whatever you say, Dane," Sara smiled icily.  "Anyway," she turned back to Grace, "if you know what's good for you, you need to stay as far away from Dane as you possibly can.  I can guarantee you don't want to cross me!"

Grace Davis"I-I'm sorry," Grace muttered as her face flushed with embarrassment.  "I-I had no idea."  Trying to hold back her tears, she quickly walked away and left Dane and Sara alone.

"Sara, honey, I can explain!" Dane said nervously.  "Grace and I were just dancing..."

"And kissing," she interrupted.  "I'm not blind!  I can see what was going on."

"Nothing was going on!"

Sara Summers"Just like nothing was going on between you and Jillian?"  Sara folded her arms across her chest and watched him closely.  "So, how many others have there been?  How many, Dane!  How many other foolish girls like Jillian and Grace have you tried to lure into your bed behind my back?"

"Sara, that's not the way it is!"

"Oh, isn't it?"  She walked toward him and reached out to run her hand over his shoulder.  "Dane, you need to be more committed to this relationship.  You need to focus on me more than any of these other girls."

"We've already discussed this!"  He felt himself begin to grow angry.  Why were they having this same argument again?  "I told you that I refuse to be completely committed to someone until I get married.  Until I decide that I'm ready for all that a marriage involves, I will be tied down to no one!"  He pushed her hand away and angrily walked off.

Sara fumed as she stood alone on the dance floor.  She thought about the information she had concerning Dane's entrance exam and smiled slightly.


The Grand Sunset RoomPatterson MonroePatterson watched Stephanie closely as she cried.  He began to feel horrible for everything that had happened to her.  True, she'd done some awful things in her attempt to separate Reginald and Jillian, but to have everyone turn on her like they had.

"Oh, why did I listen to Momma?" Stephanie said as she sobbed.  Her back was to Patterson, so she didn't see him standing in the doorway.  "Why didn't I just forget about Reginald like I'd tried to do?  Why did I let her convince me that I had a chance?  Everyone hates me."  She buried her head in her hands and cried.

"N-not everyone hates you." Patterson spoke up as he stepped onto the balcony.

She snapped her head up and quickly dried her tears as she tried to pull herself together.  "What do you want?" she questioned coldly.  "Did you come out here to gloat, too?  I know what you and all of your friends think about me!  I know you wanted Reginald with Jillian all along!  I bet you're pretty happy now that everyone seems to hate me."

"I don't hate you, Stephanie," he said softly as he walked over to her.  "I-in fact, I think I might have misjudged you."

"What?"  She looked up at him in disbelief.  She and Patterson had never seen eye to eye on anything.  They'd had more than their fair share of run-ins over the years.  "What are you up to?  I bet you're trying to find some other way to humiliate me!"

"No, that's the furthest thing from my mind."  He knelt down beside her on the ground and pulled out a handkerchief and gently began to wipe her eyes.  He couldn't help but laugh when he realized he wasn't doing a very good job.  "Here," he smiled as he handed the handkerchief to her.  "You can probably do it better than I can."

Stephanie LakeStephanie wiped the last of her tears away and sighed.  She folded her legs under herself and tried to smooth out the long skirt of her gown as she remained seated on the ground.  "So, what do you want?"

"Um, well, actually, I was looking for Lorraine.  I came out here and saw you..."  His voice trailed off as he examined her closely.  He shook his head slightly in disbelief.  Was that really a look of genuine innocence that he saw on her face?  "Well, let's just say that I think I've misjudged you.  I don't think you're really the heartless girl I once thought you were."

"Really?"  She looked at him with cautious disbelief.  He had to be up to something.

"Granted, I think you tend to be a little misguided."  He laughed as he watched her nod her head impishly in agreement.  "But deep down, I think all you really want is someone to love you for you."

"Oh, my, yes!  That's all I want!  I thought I could have that with Reginald, but that didn't work.  Then I really thought I could have that with Douglas, but I ruined that because of Dane!"

"Steph, you've got to stop trying so many schemes and tricks."  He reached out and touched her lightly on the shoulder.  "Stop trying to force things.  You've got to try to be a better, more honest person.  If you can do that, you can let the sweet girl you've got locked up inside come out.  That's when you're gonna find the love you crave."

Stephanie looked at him closely.  Could he be telling her the truth?  Could she really find true love if she just stopping scheming to find it?


Grace Davis"Oh, Trevor," Grace sobbed as she fell into his arms.  "I-I'm such a stupid fool."

"So, I take it things didn't go well with Dane?"  He tried to hide the disappointment caused by his discovery of Grace's secret crush.

"Oh, you know?"

"I saw the two of you on the dance floor."  Trevor pulled away from her and looked her in the eyes.  "I-I can't believe that you are so naive to want to have anything to do with him after the stunt he pulled here tonight.  You heard Reginald tell everyone what he did to break up him and Jillian!"

"No!" she snapped back.  "He didn't do anything!  It was all that vile Stephanie Lake's fault!  She was behind everything."

Trevor shook his head in disbelief.  How could she still defend Dane when he obviously had brought her to tears.  "Now, why don't you tell me everything."  He wrapped his arms around her to comfort her.  "I know, now, that this crush you've had is Dane."

"Y-yes."  Grace sniffled as she tried to blink away her tears.  "Oh, Trevor, I was such a fool.  H-he couldn't want me.  Well, actually, he could, but not for the reason I want!  Dane Manchester is a cad.  I realize now that he only uses girls to get what he wants.  How Sara Summers can stay involved with him, I'll never know."

"And knowing all of this, you still defend his lack of a role in what happened tonight between Reginald and Jillian?"

She paused for a moment and thought.  Of course, if Dane was awful enough to charm women into doing what he wanted, why wouldn't he be horrible enough to try to cause problems for Reginald and Jillian...especially if he really wanted her back.  "Oh, Trevor, you're right!"  She lay her head on his shoulder.  "I don't know what I ever saw in him."

Trevor Callison"I do."  He held her tightly and stroked her pale blonde hair.  "It's that devilish twinkle in his eye and his charming grin.  It's his smooth way of telling young, naive girls everything they want to hear until they think he's the most wonderful thing on the planet.  Don't feel bad, Grace.  You're not the first person he's fooled.  Remember, he fooled Jillian, too, and I think she's one of the smartest girls I know."

"I-I guess you're right."

"Grace," Trevor spoke softly as he lifted her chin up so that their eyes met.  He sighed as he thought about how beautiful she was.  "I-I promise that I'll never use you like that.  I'll never hurt you."

Oh, his eyes! Grace thought as she found herself lost in Trevor's eyes.  Despite the feelings she'd had for Dane, she'd never been able to pull herself away from Trevor's eyes.  She was shocked when his lips found hers and he began to kiss her.  She was more shocked to find that she didn't have the strength to push him away...nor did she want to.


Stephanie Lake"Oh, that's what I want!"  Stephanie exclaimed as she clasped her hands together.  "I want real love.  I want someone who'll love me for me!  I-I really am a sweet girl, but...but..."

"No 'buts'!"  Patterson pressed his finger against her lips to silence her.  "You can't go running around with one hair brained scheme after another.  You can't just go plowing over someone who gets in the way of something you want!"

"But Daddy always said that if you wanted the fairytale, if you wanted the happy ending, you had to help it along!"  She hung her head as she thought of her father's advice.  She'd believed him when he told her that she had to fight for what she wanted.  Unfortunately, all her work had gotten her so far was utter embarrassment and disgrace.  She shook her head and sighed.

"What's that advice gotten you?"

"Reginald hates me," she admitted.  "Douglas doesn't want anything to do with me...heaven only knows what Sara thinks of me.  She's my best friend in the whole world and I'm sure she thinks I deliberately tried to stab her in the back.  I didn't!  Really!  Honest!  I just wanted to get Dane away from her."

Patterson Monroe"I'm sure you're intentions regarding Sara were noble,"  he reached out and lifted her head to face him.  "Well, as noble as you could make them."  They both laughed.  "But you've got to change the way you do things, Steph.  I think you've seen that scheming doesn't work."

"Oh, you're right!  You're really right!"  She threw her arms around him and hugged him.  "I can be better!  I know I can.  I-I can show everyone what kind of girl I really am!"  She pulled away when a horrible thought struck her.  "O-oh, I don't know if I can do it by myself.  I-I need someone to help me.  I need someone to tell me when I'm messing up.  I know I can't count on Momma for that."  Her head dropped in sadness again.  "A-and I don't have any real friends."  Suddenly, she looked up and right at Patterson.  "Paddy, will you be my friend?  You can help me be a better person!  You know how to do it.  You've got this honesty and honor thing down pat!"

"I-I don't know."  He quickly grew nervous and slowly moved away.  Could he really take on a responsibility as tough as helping Stephanie Lake reform her outlook on life?  He looked into her pleading eyes and realized that he couldn't tell her "no".  He couldn't leave her all alone and hopeless.  "Yes, Stephanie," he nodded in defeat.  "Yes, I'll help you.  But, it's not going to be easy to change old habits.  I'm going to be watching you every step of the way."

"Oh, thank you!  Thank you!"  She flung her arms around him and kissed him deeply.

Patterson was shocked by her display of affection and gratitude.  He tried to push her away, but realized that there was no deterring her.  Soon, he was surprised to discover himself kissing her back.  If he'd only known Lorraine had just stepped onto the balcony and had witnessed the entire embrace.